Publish date:

A Tall Order For The Nets Some helpful hints for anyone hoping to slow Tim Duncan

As an undergrad at Stanford, Nets center Jason Collins used to
take notes when Cardinal coach Mike Montgomery spoke. Not the
mental kind, but actual Bic-on-paper scribbles. One of the
defensive strategies he copied down was Montgomery's
beat-and-belt theory: Beat your man to the spot and make him belt
you. That charge-taking technique might come in handy against Tim
Duncan, but even Collins knows he'll need more than that to
derail the league's MVP, right? "It's simple," he says. "Just
find out what he likes to do and take that away from him." To his
credit, Collins then laughed.

Humor aside, here are four strategies Collins, forward Kenyon
Martin and their fellow Nets should use.

Force him right. When playing Duncan straight up on the left
block--his preferred position in the post--make him catch the
ball a few feet farther out than he'd like to and then shade him
to his right. "Duncan wants to lead with that left shoulder,"
says one Western Conference scout. "He goes to his left about 60
percent of the time, so try to force him baseline." Defenders
should also stay up on Duncan; if he turns to face up and still
has his dribble, he's even more dangerous. But they can't get too
close. As Collins points out, "If you stick your hand up too far
to guard the jumper, he'll come up through your arm."

Wait to double. Martin is one of the few players in the league
who may be able to handle Duncan one-on-one, and he's slated to
see the most time trying to do so. At 6'9" he's a good shot
blocker and, perhaps most important, he's gained the respect of
referees during this postseason. New Jersey coach Byron Scott
will give Martin help, but he will wait until Duncan starts his
dribble to send the double (something Phoenix had success with
during the first round). "If you come on the catch, he's a good
passer," says Scott. "It's when he puts it on the floor that you
can put him in a little bit of trouble. That's when he has some

Vary the help. If the double team always originates from the same
spot, the Spurs will adjust. "It's a very intelligent team, and
he's a very intelligent player," the scout says of Duncan. "You
might get him once, but you won't get him twice." The solution:
Have a forward double one time, then have a guard run down the
next time. Before the Finals, Duncan said he expected the
defender covering the post-entry passer to sag back, which is
what the Nets did in the regular season. That's even more reason
to mix it up.

Keep him off balance. Duncan's game is predicated on efficient
movement and practiced, near-mechanical moves. Catch, turn, bank
shot. A Spurs player who frequently guards Duncan in practice
said last year that Duncan hates to be given a slight forearm
shove in the stomach when he rises for a jump hook. If this is
done subtly, the refs may not see it, and Duncan's balance can be

One final piece of advice for New Jersey. "Don't worry about
stopping Duncan," says the scout. "If you can just contain him,
it's a totally different series." --Chris Ballard

COLOR PHOTO: RUSTY KENNEDY/AP MARTINIZING Tough D against Detroit earned Martin the refs'respect.